Two key players fighting to improve mental health in the UK film industry have spotlighted the improvements that have taken place since the pandemic started.
Rebecca Day, a Psychologist and Producer of 2018 feature Becoming Animal, said she contributed to more panels within one month of the first lockdown than in the previous two years and is now having to hire additional therapists to take on an influx of clients.
“There was a real sense when the pandemic started of people saying ‘I can now take a pause and think about what I need, how I might want to work in the future and how we can make that happen’,” said Day, who was speaking during a Deadline-hosted European Film Market session entitled Time To Change.
“People have been given the bravery to express how they’re feeling. When I did panels on this in 2018 I was terrified that people would be insulted by the suggestion we were struggling in the workplace and while the response gave me a palpable sense of relief, that response has launched forward and sped up since the pandemic.”
In conversation with Deadline International Features Editor Diana Lodderhose, Day also said mental health is “being handled much more sensitively and sophisticatedly on TV than it was two years ago.”
The pandemic has made employers realize that looking after employee mental health is a long-term money saver, added Day, leading to greater productivity and better staff retention.
Backed by broadcasting and production heavyweights, the UK’s Film and TV Charity is in the midst of a 12-month long campaign aimed at tackling mental health challenges following shock statistics that found almost nine-in-10 behind-the-camera workers had experienced mental health problems and more than 50% had considered suicide, which led to the eventual declaration of a mental health emergency. The findings of the charity’s latest survey will be published later this week.
Sarah Mosses, Founder and CEO of Together Films, said she used the pandemic to have a “personal dialogue” with her employees about “what they are accustomed to, how they would like to work and what their ideal situation is.”
Mosses listed a number of measures she has brought in to improve people’s mental health (which she also discusses with her clients including Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Sheffield DocFest), from regular one-to-one meetings focused on wellbeing, which is being trialled by Sheffield Doc Fest, to the use of a counseling support line, to ‘mental health days’ that employees can use like a sick day.
On the latter, Mosses rejected the notion that people could “abuse the policy,” stating that her team used one-to-two ‘mental health days’ on average.
“If they trust in the process and there is transparency then it shouldn’t be abused,” she explained. “I’m very open about my experience with mental health and am clear I will only use ‘mental health days’ if I’m in a bad space.”
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